DRIVERS WILL be hit by a record six million penalties by private parking companies this year, up by more than a quarter in 12 months, fuelling demands for a crackdown on cowboy operators.
Figures show that almost 1.6 million vehicle owner records were sold to private companies in the past three months alone, allowing them to pursue owners for up to £100 for overstaying or infringing other car park rules.
It suggests that the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), which passes on owners’ names and addresses to parking operators for £2.50 a time, will make about £15 million through the system in 2017-18. The number of penalties issued to motorists by private companies has soared more than 20-fold in just over a decade.
The disclosure provoked claims that ticketing has reached “epidemic proportions”, and that operators are using dubious tactics to entrap motorists.
The government is preparing to back new legislation that would force operators to comply with stringent rules to obtain owners’ details in the future.
Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, recently said that all operators would be forced to follow a single government-backed code before obtaining data, replacing the present system in which operators are self-policed by one of two industry trade bodies.
Drivers increasingly complain of substandard car park signage that entraps motorists, a confusing or inconsistent appeals process and intimidating letters demanding payment. Last year, The Times told of a driver who was sent a demand for £100 after stopping in the layby of a private industrial estate for 15 seconds to check directions.
Last week, the DVLA published figures on the number of records passed to private parking companies between last October and December.
An analysis of the data by the RAC Foundation showed that 1,576,593 records were released — the highest quarterly total on record. It represented a 26 per cent rise compared with the same three-month period a year earlier.
The DVLA passed 4.3 million records to companies in this financial year. The RAC Foundation said the agency was on course to sell nearly 6 million records by the end of 2017-18, up from 272,215 addresses released in 2006-7.
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “The fact that ticketing has reached such epidemic proportions demonstrates exactly why legislation is needed.”
A DVLA spokeswoman said that the fee charged to parking companies only covered administration costs.
This article first appeared in The Times